AP US History
Colonial America DBQ
An interesting characteristic of the colonies that the English founded during the 17th and 18th centuries on the eastern coast of modern day America is that while all were indeed settled by people from England they each developed their own very distinct cultures and ways of life. While the varying environments from each colony to the next certainly isn’t a negligible factor in the diversification of the colonists’ cultures in the New World, there are more striking factors that can be considered. The colonists themselves it seems had very different viewpoints, goals and demeanor when several regions are compared. Examples of two regions that were both settled by the English that developed very different and arguably contrasting cultures are the New England and the Chesapeake colonies. It is apparent that the main goals and natures of the colonists in either region were dissimilar. In New England colonists were primarily Puritans and focused on religion, self-government, family values, and cooperation for the good of the community where in the Chesapeake colonists often relied on the royal government and were focused on acquiring great wealth and furthering their own individual achievement. These dissimilarities as well as other factors like the environment caused the two cultures to develop in very separate ways. Every society is shaped by its environment and its culture can be greatly influenced by its surroundings. The society of the New England colonies was formed in an area of temperate, generally cool temperatures, clean water, and rocky, infertile soil. This meant that the colonists weren’t plagued by many diseases and relied on the trade of furs, lumber, and fish. This contrasts to the unhealthful environment the Chesapeake colonists faced. The land of the Chesapeake was often mosquito infested and its inhabitants were constantly in the danger of outbreaks of disease. The Chesapeake’s economy focused on tobacco as its main export, meaning that the fate and the well-being of many Chesapeake colonies relied on the demand of tobacco products back in the Old World. Another factor that can shape a society is the actual makeup of the people within the society. The colonies in New England were primarily settled by entire families forming communities with other families. There are many accounts of the emigrants on board ships bound for America and very often the ships travelling to New England had examples of entire families seeking a fresh start with husbands, wives, sons, daughters, and occasionally servants (Document B). In contrast, the lists of emigrants bound for the Chesapeake usually held a majority of young men, unrelated to one another and a small portion of young women, again, unrelated. It seemed only individuals, most not even at the age of 35, came to the Chesapeake to start their new lives (Document C). This of course meant that the society in New England was oriented around family and understandably focusing on the well-being of those related to the colonists. In the Chesapeake most colonists held no relation to each other and so didn’t terribly care for anyone else but themselves. These factors by themselves would be enough to see an ostensible difference between the societies, however there are still more factors that led to the dissimilar developments of these two unique cultures. The Puritans that came to New England had a history of cooperation and a focus on the good of the Puritan community. After they left England to worship as they pleased and avoid persecution they went to the Netherlands. Eventually many Puritans became worried that their children would become “Dutchified” and wanted to retain their culture. To avoid further Dutchification the Puritans got a charter from the Virginia Company to settle in the New World. They landed off the mark however, perhaps to their benefit...
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